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Secret Catlin's Logging Decision - Disgraceful

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society is outraged that the Clutha District Council has granted consent to clearfell rimu forest in the Catlins.

"I am astonished" said Sue Maturin, Forest and Bird's Southern Conservation Officer. "The effects of clearfelling intact lowland podocarp forest can never be considered minor when there has been such widespread loss of lowland forest throughout New Zealand. Only 23% of New Zealand's original forest cover remains, with an even lower percentage of lowland forest remaining.

Ms Maturin said that under the Resource Management Act it is unlawful for the Council to grant a resource consent without public notification where the effects of the proposed activity are anything more than minor.

"By granting this consent in secret, without an opportunity for public comment, the Clutha Council has brought the Resource Management Act into disrepute and shown contempt for public process. The opportunity to find alternative ways of protecting this forest has been lost" Sue Maturin said.

"Council's actions are a slap in the face, given the recent Environment Court decision in relation to vegetation clearance in Southland. This case recognised the importance of public participation in reaching robust environmental decisions" she said.

It is absurd that Council believed granting consent was necessary because logging would occur anyway. "Condoning activities that are in breach of the RMA will do nothing to help the Council's enforcement role."

The only recourse to Forest and Bird is to undertake expensive judicial review of the Council's decision in the High Court. "This is like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut" Sue Maturin said.

We need the ability to appeal to the Environment Court. Forest and Bird hopes that the Government will pursue its intention to provide appeals on non notified consents, in the current amendments to the Resource Management Act.

Melissa Bardsley
Secretary to General Manager
Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc
P O Box 631
Phone (04) 385 7374
Fax (04) 385 7373

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